The James Bond film series from Eon Productions features numerous musical compositions since its inception in 1962, many of which are now considered classic pieces of British film music.
The best known of these pieces is the ubiquitous “James Bond Theme” composed by Monty Norman, arranged and performed by John Barry.
Other instrumentals, such as the “007 Theme” or “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” (both composed by John Barry), and various songs, such as Shirley Bassey‘s “Goldfinger”, Paul McCartney‘s “Live and Let Die”, Duran Duran‘s “A View to a Kill” (the first and only James Bond song to have reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100), Tina Turner‘s “Goldeneye” and Adele‘s “Skyfall” (Academy Award for Best Original Song) also become identified with the series.
The largest contributions to the Bond films, save for the “James Bond Theme”, are works from John Barry.
In the opening credits of Dr. No, two other pieces were played : an untitled bongo interlude and a Calypso-flavored rendition of “Three Blind Mice”, titled “Kingston Calypso”.
Due to this, Dr. No is the only film to have more than one opening theme.
Other major composers and record-producers include David Arnold, Burt Bacharach, George Martin, Bill Conti, Michael Kamen, Marvin Hamlisch, Éric Serra, Thomas Newman and Hans Zimmer.
Each of these composed for only one Bond film, with the exception of Arnold and Newman.
Welsh singer Shirley Bassey is the only singer to perform more than one Bond theme – she recorded the themes to Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, and Moonraker.
The song “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” was originally recorded by Shirley Bassey for Thunderball but when there were concerns with the length of the track compared to the needed titles, it was later rerecorded by Dionne Warwick as Bassey was not available and featured a longer instrumental opening designed so the lyrics would not be heard until after the title “Thunderball” appeared in Maurice Binder‘s title design.
Neither version was released until the 1990s.
The song was removed from the title credits after producer Albert Broccoli requested that the theme song contain the film’s title in its lyrics.
When it was planned to use the Warwick version in the end titles Shirley Bassey sued the producers with the result being that neither version was heard in the film and different instrumental versions of the theme appeared on the High Fidelity (Bassey’s) and Stereo (Warwick’s) soundtrack LPs.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service featured an instrumental theme tune, something which remains unique amongst the post-From Russia with Love films, and included a vocal theme in the form of Louis Armstrong‘s performance of “We Have All the Time in the World”, written by John Barry and Hal David.
Paul McCartney‘s performance of “Live and Let Die” was the first Bond theme song to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song ; it reached No. 2 as a U.S. single, and No. 9 on the U.K. charts.
George Martin’s work in the song won the Grammy for Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists.
Duran Duran and John Barry‘s “A View To A Kill” topped the singles charts in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, the only Bond theme to hit No. 1 in the United States.
Jack White wrote and produced the song “Another Way to Die” for Quantum of Solace.
He plays the guitar, drums, and piano, while Alicia Keys provides vocals, becoming the first duet in Bond theme history.
It was not until the 2013 Oscars that a Bond theme song finally won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, the theme song from Skyfall by Adele.
A number of songs have been recorded for Bond films but not used besides “Mr. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” (by Dionne Warwick and Shirley Bassey), among them :
• “Thunderball” by Johnny Cash.
• “Run James Run” by Brian Wilson.
• “You Only Live Twice” by Julie Rogers (and later by Lorraine Chandler).
• “The Man with the Golden Gun” by Alice Cooper.
• “For Your Eyes Only” by Blondie.
• “Tomorrow Never Lies” by Pulp, originally titled “Tomorrow Never Dies” (other artists who submitted Tomorrow Never Dies themes include Marc Almond, Swan Lee, The Cardigans, Saint Etienne and Space).
• “Man of War” was written by the English band Radiohead in the 1990’s.
Radiohead submitted it for Spectre, but it was rejected as it had not been written for the film, making it ineligible for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Radiohead wrote another song for the film, “Spectre”, but it was rejected as too melancholy.